Photo by Jitendra Jangir (Motivate Publishing)
By Kent Gray
Add a world record to the remarkable CV of Dubai golf prodigy Rayhan Thomas.
The 17-year-old Indian amateur sensationally reeled off a record nine successive birdies and flirted with golf’s mythical mark of 59 at the MENA Tour’s Dubai Creek Open on Tuesday.
Thomas eventually signed for a 10-under-par round of 61 to tie the course record at his home Dubai Creek Golf & Yacht Club, set just 24 hours earlier by Dubai-based South African professional MG Keyser. After opening with a one-under 70, Thomas’s historic round saw him snatch the clubhouse lead and well and truly rekindle the defence of the title he famously captured as a 16-year-old a year ago, becoming the first amateur to win on the developmental Middle East and North Africa Pro-Am circuit in the process.
Tuesday’s nine birdies, achieved courtesy of an impossibly hot putter from holes 2 through 10 at the Creek, saw the correspondence schooled teen provisionally join 1989 Open champion Mark Calcavecchia in the record books with the most successive birdies in an Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR)/professional event.
Calcavecchia’s run came on holes 12 to 2 (he started on the back nine) at the 2009 RCB Canadian Open on the PGA Tour. Bernd Wiesberger matched the feat at February’s Maybank Championship Open en-route to a 63 although it is not officially recognised as preferred lies were in force at the European Tour event due to wet conditions at Saujana G&CC in Kuala Lumpur.
The world birdie and local course records are further milestones in a young career clearly going places. Before this tournament last year, Thomas was the 1050th ranked amateur in the world. Now he’s up to 50th place on the back of a remarkable run of form which has included making his first professional tournament cut at February’s Omega Dubai Desert Classic and a run to the semifinals of the U.S. Junior Amateur Championship.
“I don’t know what to say” was Thomas initial reaction on learning he was a world record holder. “It certainly wasn’t going through my head, I was just trying to make as many birdies as I could.
“Last year I set the amateur course record  in the first round so it feels really good to have the actual course record now and share it with a friend of mine, feels good to have it at my home club.
“I’m very happy. I’ve played well here because I know the course well and to do it front of all the members and my parents was even more special.”
Have you ever had a birdie blitz even remotely close to that before? “Never nine, nine’s a lot,” Thomas conceded after his round in the company of Swede Fredrik From and 2011 Open champion and former European Ryder Cup captain Darren Clarke, the MENA Tour’s patron. “ I just started holing putts. Hit a lot of good iron shots and I was just holing putts all day. Today almost all the putts I looked at, I felt like they could go in. It was just good to keep it going.”
The round was a huge confidence boost for Thomas who is using the tournament as prep for the inaugural Presidents Cup in New Jersey later this month. The 61 certainly won’t have gone unnoticed by International team captain Trevor Immelman, the 2008 U.S. Masters champion.
“It was good to get this good round in, it just shows I have what it takes to go low and going forward for the rest of the season it’s going to be a good memory to fall back on,” he said.
— Justin Parsons (@JParsonsGolf) September 12, 2017
Thomas admitted thoughts of shooting 59 “crept in” when he birdied the 10th but his putter cooled every so slightly.
“I just tried to make sure I remembered I have a tournament to play and you know, 59 is not the goal, trying to get myself into contention is, so I didn’t want to do anything silly [in the closing stretch of holes].
“After the first day I was nine back so I know I had to shoot something better than six or seven under to get myself into contention and I was able to achieve that.”
— Jamie Mcconnell (@JMGolfCoach) September 12, 2017
As for the game plan on Wednesday when Thomas has the chance to emulate MENA Tour record holder Zane Scotland as a back-to-back winner of the Dubai Creek Open? Expect more of the same.
“If I can shoot one more of these I’ll probably be fine [laughs] tomorrow but, no, it will be the same mentality, stick to my game plan, if I can hole putts, I can hole putts, but if not, just be sure I make pars in the right places and attack in the right places.”
The field have been forewarned.